Category Archives: Nutrition & Nutrients

Spring Is Here – Detox Time

Spring Cherry Blossoms

With the arrival of September comes the stirring of Spring down here in Oz. (For my Northern hemisphere followers there are also steps that you need to take to deal with the change from the warmth of Summer into the cool of Autumn and I will post some pointers for you next time).  Doors and windows are thrown open at the first hint of a warm day letting light and air pour through rooms that have been closed up throughout the dark depths of winter. Second-Hand Shops are flooded with donations as cupboards are cleaned out and goods are discarded. Intentions are set and with the new mindset changes begin to happen. Dogs get walked more frequently, meals start to include more fresh, raw produce, gym programs are set and personal trainers are hired, and many people undertake a detox program to rid themselves of the winter “blahs” and get their energy surging and their bodies trim for the seasons ahead.

Your body’s natural detox system is awesome when it is functioning at full power. But when something breaks down, the toxins are simply not eradicated and build up inside you, stressing every system in your body and leading to lots of health problems that can include bad skin, allergies or arthritis.

At work this week I have begun the Spring Detox Programs and now is the time to consider starting these in your life also. Toxic overloads build up over time and obviously cannot be dealt with by simply eating fruit over a weekend. Also,  doing only a juice fast or detox diet may cause more harm than good, as your metabolic processes will slow down dramatically, and this includes waste removal. The toxins within your body are stored in the fat cells. Increasing  exercise without making any other significant changes can release these toxins into your system as the fat breaks down, but not necessarily adequately flush them out of your body.

To detox properly you need to put a number of things into place and commit to making long-term changes rather than just a 2-day or even week long quick-fix.

There are many ways that you can go about this.

First be honest about what you need to change. Do you smoke? Drink lots of coffee, or soft drinks, which also often contain caffeine, or worse, aspartame? Are you binge drinking, or drinking alcohol on most nights? Are you addicted to sugar or foods high in saturated fats? Are you too sedentary? Are you stressed? Even though you don’t take stress “into your body” it is still very toxic to all your body systems, particularly if it is ongoing.

So to create an effective detox you need to work with the natural body detoxifying processes. At the same time limit the amount of toxins you are exposed to so that you reduce the stress on your detox system, while also strengthening it at the same time.


Fresh, raw, organic vegetables
Fresh, raw, organic vegetables

The first line of defence against toxin overload is in limiting what you put into your mouth. This usually means giving up coffee, sugar, bread, milk alcohol and red meat, but if doing this stops you being able to detox in other ways then it won’t be all that good (although I always maintain even small steps are useful to a certain degree and sometimes the best way to get started). In spite of this, to effectively detox you do need to reduce the toxin intake from food. Eating only organic food is the best option but if it is not possible, at least try to always eat some selected organic foods. You also need to add foods to your diet that will stimulate the liver, bowel and kidneys so they work better, as well as foods that neutralize free radicals like berries, kidney beans, avocadoes, cherries, spinach, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green tea, nuts, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and kiwi fruits to name just a few .

Here are 5 Great Springtime Detox Diets you might like to try. There are lots of  “Top 10 Detox Food” lists around. This list suggests general food groups and this one specific food items, and both are great places to get ideas for changes you can make. But remember they are just a start and you should aim to expand on these lists.

Juicing is a another great way to get optimal health and well worth including in your nutrition plan. How often are you getting the 7-8 serves of fruit and vegetables you need every day, and do you know how big a serve actually is? Juicing offers a way to help you meet those requirements. You can add veges that you don’t normally eat and get a wider range of nutrients and also this means you are able to rotate your foods more. Here is a nice comparison of the different types of juicers available. Check it out before you get one. And then check out these good recipes to get you started. Celery, fennel and cucumbers are good veges to start with as they are easy to digest.  You can add lemon or lime, cranberries or blueberries, or fresh ginger to boost your health and get a great flavour burst. As you get the hang of it you can add superfoods to your juice like Spirulina (my own fave “multi-vitamin” superfood), chlorella, barley grass and maca powder. Use organic veges and fruit, especially if they are one of the ones included on the “Dirty Dozen©” list . Also, drink the juice straight away as it is very perishable. If you need to you can store it for a day in the fridge, in a container filled right to the top so there is no air to allow oxidation to occur. The only drawback about using lots of juices in your diet is that you lose the fibre that is in the fruit and vegetables when you juice them, and so you will need to be very conscious of maintaing a high level of foods with a high natural fibre level in the other foods in your diet.

While exercise is essential to a good detox, gyms are not always helpful or healthy. Their environment is one that for many people simply builds their stress levels and negates any health benefit they would otherwise gain. Running or walking in the open air, or swimming gives you the benefit of aerobic exercise away from the stressful environment.

Eastern exercise like yoga, t’ai chi and qi gong are wonderful ways to exercise as they offer you so much. You will gain all the benefits of other aerobic exercises as well as much, much more. Yoga for example, teaches you to breathe properly, it stretches your muscles which in turn releases toxins, it balances your inner body energy, or chi, it helps to reduce your stress and it stimulates your lymphatic system. It is also very calming for most people and leaves them feeling at peace as well as envigorated. There are many types of yoga and you are sure to find one that suits you.

Detoxing is not just about what goes on inside your body. It is also important to attend to your external body. You are going to like this! Massage, body-brushing and heat treatments are some great ways to stimulate detoxing from the outside.

About half a kilo of toxins leave your body each day, carried out through your skin in your sweat, but this can only happen if your pores are clean. Also, if you are you are using an anti-perspirant then you need to be aware that it will be blocking some of the major drainage pores of your body. The pores can also be blocked by a build-up of dead skin cells that sit on the surface of your skin. Normally they are shed, but this doesn’t occur as well as you age. So, removing these cells is important to detox and body-brushing is a good way to do this. Here is how to do it. Body salt scrubs on dry skin will also help. I make a delicious one from Himalayan Salt and essential and vegetable oils.

Sauna and steam treatments are another way to remove toxins. By the way, when smokers leave a sauna they often leave a yellow tar residue which has oozed out of all their pores on the towels and a fine layer of black tar under the benches. Is that an incentive to stop smoking? I hope so.

Massage detoxes the body in two ways. Firstly, by reducing stress which if prolonged depresses your immunity and therefore your resistance to infections. Reducing stress  can also help reduce cravings. Secondly, it stimulates blood circulation and lymphatic flow, which feeds more nutrients into the cells and removes more waste from the cells. There are a few different types of massage, and while all will be beneficial manual lymph drainage is the most beneficial for detoxing.


So, armed with these few tips to get you off and running, start formulating your Spring Detox plan today so you can get it underway quickly and head out on the path towards a lighter brighter spring you.


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Fight Depression With These Simple Strategies

As you read this post Mental Health Awareness week has finished but the battle that is depression goes on for many people.

Commonly Depression is treated with drugs that flood the brain with serotonin. While it is important to address depression, there have not been scientific studies that show that this drug therapy really works, and in fact, a number of experiments where the serotonin levels in the brain were greatly increased, failed.

However, there are other methods that can be used to help relieve depression.

  • A therapist can help you with new ways to look at yourself and your life.
  • Adequate sleep makes you less susceptible to the negative messages that seem to swamp you. (I’ll write more about good sleep habits in a later post).
  • Exercise three times a week, difficult though it always is to get motivated, always helps lift your mood by altering brain chemistry. It doesn’t have to be at the gym as walking is always good and yoga is great too.
  • Structure helps, so getting into a routine is a good idea.
  • Keeping in touch with other people who love and support you is worth heaps, and if you can’t do that, then just getting out and being around people, anyone, will help. Even better if they have a laugh with you.
  • Getting lots of sunshine is also good as natural light has been proven as a cure for depression.
  • There are also lots of mood boosting supplements, like maca, that will help.

Food For Depression

Another major way of fighting depression is through good nutrition, even though because of the depression you may not be feeling hungry.

Preparing and eating a meal might seem pointless but not only do the nutrients contribute to lifting your depression, it will also help you avoid the junk foods that make your depression worse. Don’t even buy or store sugary or salty snacks in your cupboards – it is far better to have simple healthy foods that don’t need lots of preparation to use when you find you are simply not able to face meal preparation.Foods like coffee, meat, alcohol and fatty or fast foods can actually make you feel more depressed and you will feel a lot different if you avoid them.

It really is a case of “you are what you eat”, bad foods make you feel worse and good healthy foods make you feel better.

Top foods to fight depression

1. Fish Oils:

Yes this is another benefit of fish oils as the right kind of fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, often lacking in depressed people. One study showed that taking just one gram of fish oil each day made a 50% difference in symptoms like anxiety, sleep problems, feelings of sadness, decreased sex drive and suicidal thoughts. You can also get omega-3’s through eating other foods including walnuts, flaxseed oil, or chia seeds. Oily fish include sardines, tuna, wild-caught salmon, gemfish plus others.

2. Brown Rice:

A great high-fibre food, brown rice contains lots of Vitamin B, B1, B3 and folic acid, plus lots of trace minerals which you need to function properly. It is also low-glycaemic, releasing glucose into the bloodstream slowly to prevent mood swings due to sugar-lows. You need to avoid any “instant” or “quick-cook” varieties because they don’t have any of these benefits.

3. Brewer’s Yeast:

The “darling food” of the 70’s, brewers yeast also contains B Vitamins (B1, B2 and B3). Don’t take this if your yeast tolerance is not great, but otherwise get your daily dose by mixing a thimbleful into a smoothie. It has heaps of vitamins and minerals in a small package, including amino acids which are great for the nervous system, and awesome for dealing with depression

4. Whole-grain Oats:

Again, you can’t use “instant” or “quick cook” oat varieties as they won’t help. With heaps of B vitamins (folic acid, pantothenic acid, B6 and B1) wholegrain oats help lower cholesterol, soothe the digestive tract and help prevent “sugar crashes,” so they assist with crabby moods and mood swings.

5. Cabbage:

With Vitamin C and folic acid cabbage protects against stress, infection and heart disease as well as lots of cancers (American Assoc for Cancer Research). There are lots of ways to eat it apart from boiled into a nasty mess – try it tossed in a salad or a wrap instead of lettuce, perfect in a stir fry, in a cabbage soup or just juice it. If you have trouble digesting cabbage add some fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking. Or you could drink these spices in a non-caffeinated tea.

6. Other Foods

There are also a few other foods worth a mention here.

  • Grains like quinoa, kamut or spelt are better choices than refined grains like white wheat flour. Wholegrains are one great place to find the B vitamins which help improve your mood.
  • Foods like raw cacao (not a block of milk chocolate!), dark molasses and brazil nuts, which are high in selenium, are also great depression eliminators
  • Make sure your diet is loaded up with fruit and vegetables which will provide lots of vitamins and minerals to help lift the clouds that surround you. And remember that there is a big difference between both the amounts, and the quality, of the nutrients in organic and commercially grown produce. Organic foods have significantly higher levels of the nutrients you need than are found in commercially grown crops.
  • It is pretty important to try and keep your blood sugar levels stable and also to get enough B vitamins when you are feeling depressed. Avoiding sugar altogether helps stop blood sugar spikes and dips.

In the end it is important to remember that depression does not last, it is a transient phenomena and will pass. In the meantime take the decision to be proactive and make the changes you need to make to move on.  Even just setting this goal is the first step in moving forward.

Fight depression with diet


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

For more information:

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dogs Don’t Deserve A Dodgy Diet Either

Today was the first day where I had no work obligations for quite a while and so I was looking forward to visiting the garden with my bouncy dog, perhaps check on the potatoes (of the earlier post) and generally experience the world outside. But instead, it has been a cold, dark day with lots of rain and even hail, and I have been stuck inside with a dog with ‘cabin-fever’.


Soon after acquiring my gorgeous pup, Safi, I had an argument with the vet over her diet. I had been feeding her a reputable and apparently high quality dried food, but she vomited, at least once a day and often more, as well as every single time she went in the car. Fed up with this, I had been doing some research starting with the book by Vet Don Hamilton, “Homeopathic Care For Cats & Dogs”.  This book is a wonderful treasure trove of information. Hamilton describes of what is ‘normal’ and natural behaviour for these animals, as well as offering a range of practical holistic measures to take to deal with illness and achieve good health and detailed information about Homeopathic treatments that can be used.

I had already seen the fast effect of homeopathic medicine when I had used it on my previous dog for an ear infection after he fell in the pond, and later to counteract the effect of rat bait he found, and then ate, under the house. So I hoped this book would provide an answer to the vomiting problem.

I had begun with the expectation of giving Safi some treatment to stop her being sick but what I ended up with was a whole new approach to how I should be feeding her, one my vet strongly disapproved of. One of Hamilton’s recommendations for chronic vomiting was simple, “change the diet to a fresh one, as this will improve most cases and eliminate the problem in some”. Easy!

It set me wondering what exactly a fresh diet should consist of for a young pup. I also started to think about the reality of feeding a pet a diet that consists only of dried or tinned food, and about just what undesirables were contained in this type of food. After all, I try to keep the family diet loaded up with fresh whole-foods and the puppy was part of the family, so it seemed reasonable to do the same for her.

Here are just some of the things I discovered along the way:

  • Commercial dried dog foods are made up of about ⅔ grain
  • Cans and rolls can contain 70% water
  • The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common and there are many serious health problems associated with this type of diet
  • Dogs in the wild don’t just eat meat, they also eat plants and small amounts of grains
  • Much of the ingredient labeling on pet foods is very misleading (hmm…where have I seen that before?)
  • Ground up, unwanted animal parts labeled as “meat and bone meal” often contain high levels of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.
  • No ADDED Preservatives’ doesn’t mean there aren’t any preservatives, just that the end manufacture didn’t actually add any, although the ingredients they used may have already had preservatives put in them.
  • Commercial pet foods are full of preservatives and additives
  • Ingredients used in pet food are often highly contaminated with a wide variety of toxic substances
  • Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food may have had to begin with. In ‘top-end’ products, other ingredients, such as vitamins and other nutrients, lost in the processing, must then be added to “fortify” the nutritious wasteland that the product is.
  • Terms like ‘complete and balanced’ relate to minimum standards not optimum standards
  • Pet foods are surrounded with just as many “marketing claims” as human foods, and deserve about the same credibility.
  • Plus there were lots of other dubious and frightening facts

It set me reassessing things!

I would never accept foods that were this highly processed and full of questionable ingredients as a regular part of the family diet and it is crazy that we blindly accept it for the dogs (and cats) that are a part of our family. These diets are like feeding your dog junk food at every single meal, usually with nothing else that is wholesome in the diet.

So after more searching I eventually came across details of how to put together a diet that is similar to the diet of a dog in the wild, and it wasn’t difficult to do. The percentages of the components of this diet are 50% raw meat, 30% fruit and veg, and 20% grain. The quantity of raw meat needs to equal 3% of the dog’s weight, so a 10kg dog needs 300g each day, a 20kg dog needs 600g. I was surprised to find that they do need some plants and grains in their diet, although not nearly as much grain as what is put in commercial foods. Apparently, wild dogs get their plant and grain needs by ripping open the entrails of their prey and eating the partly digested plant and grain products they contain first.

I get roughly this 50-30-20% balance for my dog by giving her porridge and fruit or vegetables at breakfast and meat at night. As soon as we started the new diet she stopped vomiting straight away. Magic!

She absolutely loves her food, especially carrot and cabbage (is that coleslaw?) bananas and apple, broccoli as well as lots and lots of others, and whenever she hears the sound of the knife on the chopping board she races in to get her share of vege offcuts such as the ends of the carrots or the apple core. I get her a mix of different dog meats from the pet store (where it is only about $3 a kilo) which I mix up and freeze in 300g parcels (as she weighs roughly 10kg). These are so easy to just defrost each day. Plus, I also give her raw bones and add Cod Liver Oil. Dogs need variety just as we do and the variety of meats means there are different textures, flavours and fat contents. She has a huge variety of fruit and veg and porridge from a few different grains. She doesn’t get our leftovers other than the vege offcuts, just as we don’t get her leftovers (if there were any). Her needs are quite different to ours.

The BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food) designed by an Australian vet is similar to this but contains no cooked grain at all. It may be true that dogs need no grain but I have found that Safi does well with the small amount she has.

What amazed me was how quickly changes to her health problems occurred once I switched her diet, although sadly not everyone was so lucky with their experience

The vet’s objection to changing from a commercial food to a raw food diet was that my dog would not get a “balanced diet”. In fact, what she actually did get when we changed to the raw diet was exactly what she wasn’t getting before on the dried food, a “balanced diet”. I simply do not understand how any health professional, treating either humans or animals, can advocate a permanent diet of junk food for good health although I have heard that some Vets do not recommend a diet that is solely commercial food. After what I found it seems to me that they should be recommending a diet that is not at all commercial food!

I came across this mantra in my research which seems appropriate and you might like to take on board:

“I will never again buy pre-manufactured, unnatural food for my dog. I will resolve to learn what my canine companion truly needs, in terms of healthy nutrition and feeding, and I will feed my domesticated wolf in accordance with its nature, to the best of my ability, and not in accordance with commercial advertising and exploitation.”

 Safi is now eighteen months old and a lovely, healthy dog full of joy, although still with that puppy over-exuberance. What is interesting is that we were able to turn her health around with such a simple life-style change.

Now what I really hope, for both hers and my “mental health” is that the hail eases up and we get outside tomorrow in a glorious sunny winter day.

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Telling Tales on ‘Taters

For the last few days I have had a very earthy food at the front of my mind- potatoes, ever since I traced a weird kitchen smell to an old onion in the back corner of the basket of root vegetables that sits in the bottom of the pantry. While I was searching for it I also found a decent number of potatoes that had put out nice healthy strong roots from their eyes, so past their best eating days. Now, these weren’t any old potatoes, they were all organic, and of a few different varieties.

These days I try to incorporate as much organic food into our diet as I can, but like most of us, am constrained by things like the cost and availability. But I have been gradually making the switch from normal produce over to organic fruit and veges for a long time now and potatoes are one vegetable that I now always buy organic. Root vegetables were one of the types that I started to change fairly early on as I figured that they were sitting surrounded by soil that was full of chemicals for all their growing life so maybe that meant they carried more of the pesticides. Now however, I am aware that potatoes, along with various other vegetables like carrots (another of those root vegetables) and celery, is one of the “Dirty Dozen™” – the produce that is deemed to have the highest levels of residual pesticides. The Dirty Dozen™ is a list that is produced each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and while it is compiled in the USA and relates to USA produce I have no doubts that it is also a reflection of commercial farming practices here in Australia.

I have just finished reading the excellent “Botany Of Desire” by Michael Pollan in which he examines the notion that plants use man to further their own survival just as much as man uses plants. He does this by telling the story of four different plant species that have benefited by our desire for what they offer, namely, the apple for sweetness, the tulip for beauty, cannabis for intoxication and the potato for control. I found it an enthralling read.

The potato has come a long way from its early existence on the slopes of the Andes of South America. In recent times it has been targeted for Genetic Modification and Monsanto produces genetically modified strains that have been widely grown for many decades.

Pollan decided to plant some of Monsanto’s GM potatoes alongside ‘normal’ potatoes in his own garden and then to compare the differences bewteen the two types over the same season. His research took him into organizations such as Monsanto, the FDA, the EPA, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. It also allowed hin to visit three Idaho farms (Idaho is an area of arid scrubby desert where farming is only possible with the aid of irrigation).Two of the farms he visited were growing a mix of Genetically Modified and normal commercially grown potatoes and one farm was organic. The comparisons were striking.

Now I have a real problem with eating any GMO foods and do not consume them knowingly. My preference would be first organic, then commercially grown and last GM. What absolutely horrified me though, as I was reading about the potato in Pollans’ book, was the extent of the fertilizer and pesticide regime that the farmer outlined as the normal program he uses on the commercially farmed crop. The spraying program is huge. It begins in early spring with a soil fumigant and followed throughout the growing season with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers both sprayed and introduced through the irrigating water.

But two of the practices that the farmer mentioned he would not change were really concerning. The first was that from mid summer the crop needs to be sprayed every two weeks with an organophosphate called Monitor to prevent a virus that causes small brown spots appearing on the tuber. The spots are purely cosmetic, but the Fast Food Companies are far and away the largest buyers of all potatoes grown and they don’t want brown spots on their long, golden, perfect fries, so the crops need to be sprayed. Monitor is deadly, in fact it is so toxic that the farmer and his staff will not enter the field for any purpose for five days after the spraying. This is an arid, irrigated area and even if the irrigation system breaks down he will not go into the field… he would rather lose the whole crop than risk contact with this deadly chemical. Not all potato varieties are susceptible to the virus and so not all are sprayed with Monitor, but this is an example of the extreme danger associated with chemicals that are widely and routinely used both in potato and other food crop production.

The other telling practice that Pollan reports was that in the farmers domestic garden where he grew the food for the family’s own consumption, many of the plants, including the potatoes, were grown organically, and he admitted that when they purchased any commercially grown vegetables from the market they ‘wash and wash and wash’ them before eating them.

Pollan makes the interesting observation that organic farming is much more than simply substituting good for bad. ‘The organic farmer’s focus is on the process rather than on the product’. This process is built on maintaining balance and harmony with the environment.

Having read the details of the strength of the chemicals used in farming potatoes as well as the huge extent of the program, I now have a firm resolve to avoid anything but organic potatoes. I have gone from an ‘it’s a good thing to eat organic potatoes’ to ‘I definitely will eat only organic potatoes both at home and when I am eating out’ attitude thanks to this book. This will be better for all my family.

The EWC has just released the 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ in the last few weeks and it is well worth taking a look to see for yourself just which foods belong in the ‘Dirty Dozen Plus™’ this year and which ones are in the ‘Clean 15™’. If like me you like to include as much organic foods in the family diet as possible but cannot manage to go totally organic then this might help you decide where to make the best changes to build your family’s better health.

And as for the potatoes I planted, I needed to get them into the ground very quickly in between rain bursts, so I did not actually do any of the soil preparation that I normally would do before planting at all. In fact, I simply popped them into slots I dug in the middle of a weedy slope of heavy clay soil. New growth on potatoes can be quickly and easily decimated by winter frosts but hopefully the new growth on these plants will be nicely protected from the frosts that roll down our hillside through July by all the weeds that I left in the ground above them, and come spring the luxuriant growth of the potato plants will in turn smother those very same weeds. And as a bonus the potatoes should break up that heavy soil sufficiently for me to follow them later with another different but fussier crop. I will keep you posted.


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 


© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.